To fully participate and enjoy living in a new country it is vital to be able to speak the language of the people. While there is no substitute for a fully immersive, full time language program to learn a new language; there are several computer programs and apps to help you get a head start on learning before arriving in your new country.
These programs and apps can also supplement your full time language study program and add variety to your study at a reasonable price.
The best, and most expensive, program is Rosetta Stone (https://www.rosettastone.com/) which teaches over thirty languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi and Farsi. Rosetta Stone has speech-recognition software and native tutors (via Skype) which enables you to learn to say the sounds of your new language correctly which is the key to beginning language learning. The Rosetta program is very complete and can help you move from a beginner to an advanced speaker of your new language. Through the on-line subscription you are able to access Rosetta Stone on all of your devices. A three month subscription costs around $80, one year for $180, and two years for $250. Look for periodic sales which will bring down the price by a third or more.
The language app Mondly (https://www.mondlylanguages.com) isn’t as comprehensive as Rosetta Stone, but it is free for initial use. To able to make use of all of its features you will need to subscribe for roughly $10 a month or $50 for a year. The basic lessons encourage users to practice the language they are learning in everyday scenarios, such as making introductions, ordering in a restaurant or checking into a hotel. Mondly uses native speakers to teach, has good speech recognition software, and teaches 32 languages including Mandarin, Arabic and Persian. You can use Mondly on all of your devices. A good app for beginning language study.
Busuu (https://www.busuu.com) is an language ap that is strong on speaking the language. If learning Chinese, your speaking exercises are evaluated by Busuu students in China, so long as you return the favor and grade someone else’s homework in your native tongue. Busuu only teaches 12 languages, but does teach Mandarin, Arabic and Turkish. To gain use of all of the features, including unlimited exchanges with foreign students, you need to pay $10 a month or $70 for a year.
While not a language learning program, Google Translate (https://translate.google.com) is an indispensable program to have on your laptop, tablet and phone. On your laptop you can immediately translate between English and 100 languages. You can type in English and see an immediate translation. If using the Chrome browser, you can view any website in any of 100 languages. With your phone you can take a picture of a road sign or a paragraph in a book and it will immediately translate for you. You can also speak and Google Translate will give an immediate written translation. While the translation is not always perfect, it is usually very readable and is MUCH better than Facebook’s translation. And Google Translate is FREE!
About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Asia Project Operations Director and speaks fluent Taiwanese. Click here to read his recent blog post on Learning the Local Language.